Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 70: Apartment Hunt

My lovely sister-in-law Alex, 31, decided she wanted to move to Santa Monica.  Her company likes her (and Santa Monica) enough that they are relocating their entire San Francisco office here, to 2nd Street and Broadway!  So today began our apartment hunt.  What a roller coaster of a day it was.  The first stop was Westside Rental, where Sheila, tats and a nose ring confessed she loves the weirdness of Venice and prefers it over Santa Monica.  I sort of know what she means - being from New York there is a love I too feel for the artists and the eccentrics of Venice.  That being said, I thought the best thing for Al would be to check out all of it, and consider a place in Santa Monica within walking distance to her new killer-location office.  She has lived most of her life in London, and spent the last 3 years in San Francisco, and she loves the idea of a walking city.  (OK stop laughing, I know, this is the city that gets endlessly ridiculed for being NOT a walking city, but we are trying here.)  So Sheila was cool - she helped us line up one or two things, and looked up a few others on her google map so I could rule out the uncool/unsafe/obscure neighborhoods.  She kept Al's credit card and license in exchange for a set of apartment keys which we were to return within two hours otherwise two fifty would be charged on her credit card.  Al thought she meant two dollars and fifty cents.  I laughed at her expense for about five minutes.

The first place we looked at was in the right price zone, and in a great location - a block from Main street; four blocks up from the beach.  Unfortunately, it looked like a hellhole inside and out.  I stopped a young woman and asked her how she liked living there, and she said in a thick European accent that she had just moved in two weeks ago.  Next!  After we returned the key I suggested we drive around all the streets north of Wilshire.  I am a bit of a veteran at this game, having lived in 2 apartments in West L.A. and 8 apartments in Santa Monica.  I have a lot of stories from the trenches...Newly single and needing a place, I once stopped in at a cute building with a typical So Cal style courtyard and pool.  The manager said, "honey,  the only way you're going to get an apartment here is if someone dies." So, I waited...meanwhile, I inherited my cousin's rent-controlled apartment along with her dog when she fled Hollywood for good.  I had one landlord who asked if it was OK if he lowered my rent.  That was the apartment that Mark said was so small you had to go outside to change your mind.  Mark and I had two apartments with rats, two apartments with horrendous slumlords, two amazing landlords, and a new landlord who ran away and hid when I waved hello to him and his wife. (He soon after kicked us out, baby and toddler and all, and took our unit, so I guess he didn't want to get too cozy with us.)

Anyway, the point was (was there a point?) ...The best way to find an apartment in Santa Monica is still driving around, because people who don't want to cut Westside Rentals in on their dealings choose to stick a "for rent" sign up in front of their property, and field the calls themselves.  Which led Alex and me to The Perfect Apartment.  After looking at one or two more duds, Al and I drove by the most charming apartment in the world - cute manicured lawn, upper, bright unit with gorgeous, fancy leaded windows with a neat pattern.  We saw the for rent sign, no price, and could tell from driving by that the upper unit was vacant.  I made a U-turn and said, "do you want to poke around??"  We went upstairs, gently tried the door, and it was unlocked!  The dream apartment just kept getting better and better.  It had hardwood floors, plenty of storage, fairly new bathroom and kitchen.  And a lovely view!  We had no idea what the price was, if they allow a cat, if there was parking or laundry, but we were hoping since the unit was fairly tiny that it would be within her range ($1,500 or less.)  An hour later Al got the phone call about the apartment on 12th street...yes on laundry, yes on cat, no on parking...and 1,500 a month!  The woman agreed to show it to her first thing Wednesday morning.  We did not want to let on that we had let ourselves in because breaking and entering could be considered starting out on the wrong foot with the landlord.  We spent the next hour or so envisioning Al in her perfect Santa Monica place - walking distance to Father's Office, her new work location...the Promenade, happy hour at Fig...when Al's phone rang again.  The woman was calling about the unit at 944 12th Street...it is 2,000 a month...the last call was about a different apartment on 12th street, Al got mixed up.  The record skipped...bummmmmer.  We had to let the dream apartment go and put it out of our heads...

We saw many more places, some of them start to blend together in my head...nauseating new paint smell, postage stamp kitchens, funky motel-style bathroom fixtures from 1971... was it possible to find that perfect, charming, bright, cat-friendly place with parking, laundry and hardwood floors?  Was there a 1,500 or less diamond in the rough?...to be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment